SocraticGadfly: 7/8/18 - 7/15/18

July 14, 2018

Rosenstein's 12 Russians, Seth Rich, et al
vs Trump, Putin Did it and Democrat nuttery

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, acting on the all things Russia investigation of special prosecutor Robert Mueller, has nailed 12 Russian coonskins to the indictment wall.

Mueller has indicted 12 Russian nationals, all alleged GRU employees, as announced by Rosenstein. Indictment claims one or more of them stole the credentials of a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee employee. From there, they allegedly got in the DCCC computer network, installed malware to keep their access open, etc., transmitted info from that network to a server computer in Phoenix, got into the DNC network via the DCCC network, implanted the same malware, and sent info from DNC computers to a server in Illinois.

(We now have a 13th indictee, Mariia Butina, in a separate part of the investigation. She reportedly was under the handling of Alexander Torshin of Russia's central bank and working with NRA member Paul Erickson as a go-between. Exactly what she allegedly did wrong seems a bit murky at this time.)

Also addressing the download speeds issue, it seems, per Nathaniel Freitas mentioning the use of cloud computing, it is alleged that the 12 Russians got access to other DNC docs that were stored on cloud computers.

There are a number of things we should note, while eventually getting to "Deep Throat" Mark Felt's advice to "Follow the money."

First, while the indictment alleges conspiracy between the 12 and a U.S. Congressional candidate (page 15) and a state-level lobbyist (page 16), no collusion is alleged with the Trump campaign. And even those two do not rise to criminal collusion unless the persons involved had a good idea they were interacting with Russians for nefarious purposes.

Second, in muddying the waters, they allegedly stole Black Lives Matter info, then released it to a reporter while the 12 were in Guccifer 2.0 persona (page 16). The reporter contacted them back. This would seem to indicate the 12 were in the business of throwing shade on the U.S. electoral process in general. And, tho Rosenstein most certainly will not name him, who IS that reporter?

Third, also on page 16, who is the "person in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump"? Off the top of my Nixon-tattooed back, that sure sounds like Roger Stone.

Fourth, "Organization 1" sure sounds like WikiLeaks, of course.

Fifth is the use of cryptocurrency to pay for much of the needs of this operation. (This is going to make intelligence and national-level police agencies not just in the US but around the world increase their monitoring of cryptocurrency systems.)

Sixth, while there may not be any new collusion evidence (probably because there was none), the indictments clearly fuel obstruction of justice issues vis-a-vis Trump himself, per Lawfare. (It must be remembered that Lawfare is basically the left-hand side of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment.)

Seventh, and "Follow the money" time, outside of the Rosenstein indictments and the ongoing Mueller investigation, I feel pretty confident that Donald Trump did not collude with Vladimir Putin or anybody employed by the Russian government to get elected.

Has he, though, for some time before his election, "colluded" with Russian oligarchs to be a washing machine to launder their ill-gotten money? Quite possibly, per Adam Davidson. Has he used the power and office of the presidency — and did he hint at this while campaigning — to enhance this? Also quite possibly. Is this an Emoluments Clause issue? Maybe, but likely impossible to prove.

Also, as David Klion and many others have noted, Jared Kushner and other Trump family members and allies also face money-laundering scrutiny. And, those Russian oligarchs got their money and their power, as Klion notes, because the neoliberal capitalists behind the bipartisan foreign policy establishment set them up.

Thom Hartmann agrees that Trump probably has been doing mega-grifting from Russian oligarchs. He can even quote Eric Trump on this:
"We don't rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia."
Hartmann goes on to speculate about what would happen if Putin told his oligarchs to do a "margin call" on Trump. It could explain at least some of Trump's behavior — not just fear of another bankruptcy but fear of being exposed as the emperor with no clothes.

Dave Leonhardt notes Don Jr. said the same way back in 2008. (Sidebar: Among major developed countries, only the US and UK allow anonymous purchases of real estate through LLCs and the like. Where do the Mafiyya hold property?)

Hillbots, the bipartisan foreign policy establishment and others will say, Russian oligarchs all answer to Putin, so surely this proves Trump-Putin collusion. (Per Hartmann's three options for why Trump acts as he does toward Putin, this would also let the semi-sane ones drop the Manchurian Candidate angle.)

Tosh and tommyrot.

Putin has more than enough money. Beyond that, he's about power, not money. Beyond that, he's about being a Russian patriot and restoring Russian hegemony and superpower status.

Before the election, while we know that they disliked Hillary Clinton, we also know that Kremlin insiders — career bureaucrats of political operations, not oligarchs — preferred her to Trump because of her experience and stability. And, as far as we know, Putin has signed off on this.

To phrase this one another way, while Russian oligarchs may do Putin's bidding, Putin doesn't do their bidding. Bill Browder's history shows that.

And, Putin himself, before his meeting with Trump, noted:
"Where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him? He defends the interests of the United States of America. I defend the interests of the Russian Federation."
Indeed. And if oligarchs don't align with those interests, Putin moves on. So, Putin would indeed use Trump's indebtedness as a weapon. But any groveling by either Trump or the oligarchs to help the oligarchs out would go nowhere if Putin wasn't interested.

In short, as Ryan Cooper notes? The 2016 election issues were about AMERICAN corruption. And, no, TrumpTrain riders, other wingnuts, and fellow travelers, no Deep State involved.

Eighth, as far as everything the GRU agents allegedly did, the U.S., and the rest of the West, hoist itself by its own petard in 2009. Whether Putin would have honored an international cyberconventions treaty may be debated, but one could have been in place. Thanks, Obama.

Ninth, none of this should be construed as giving credence to the fevered brainstorms of either David Corn and Jon Chait or the Kossacks Marcy Wheeler and Bmaz, unless the reporter she references happens to be the same one as in Rosenstein's filing.

Tenth, it should also not should it be construed as giving credence to every bit of handwaving and whataboutism at Consortium News. At Consortium News, I presume Joe Lauria is doing this because Ray McGovern is unavailable, or else exhausted from fellating Darrell Issa.

To answer some of Lauria's whataboutism:

Russia doesn't have an extradition treaty with the US (and doesn't extradite Russian nationals in general), so, of course, we will have things that never see the light of day past these indictments. Duh. And, the fact that material facts presented in the indictments are not legal evidence does not at all mean that these things don't exist as empirical evidence, contra what Joe seems to imply and presumably wants most readers to infer.

As for the timing of the indictments? I'm glad Joe is a mind-rider. Joe, do you read crystal balls at Renaissance festivals? Also, last I checked, Great Britain, where Trump was at yesterday, is not Russia. Yes, Trump is meeting Putin on Monday. But, the idea that these indictments would change the meeting is laughable. For them to have that effect, if timing were deliberate and being done in an effort to restrain Trump, Rosenstein should have announced them before GOP Congresscritters went to Moscow a week ago.

And, derp? Rosenstein offered Trump the option of a pre-Helsinki or a post-Helsinki announcement and Trump chose pre-Helsinki.

Also, directly contradicting and undermining Lauria, Lawfare, at the obstruction of justice link above, notes:
But, to be clear, Mueller was not trying to make a press statement. We know that not merely because that’s not the way Mueller operates but also because Rosenstein said specifically at his press conference that he had briefed the president on the matter before Trump left town—days before the Strzok hearing yet also mere days before Trump has a scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Double derp.

As for the FBI and bias? Garrett Graff, in a guest column at the NYT, is the voice of reason, saying the problem is NOT Peter Strzok, but the NY office of the FBI leaking, that undercuts both the whatabouters and the wingnuts.
 The office has long been a source of meddlesome leaks, in part because of the intermixing of F.B.I. agents and New York Police Department officers who have close relationships with the city’s press corps. 
More derp.

Related, specifically, to Consortium News' old reliance on Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity's split decision reliance on "The Forensicator" for claiming that download speeds precluded Russkies from doing much of this? Old Forensicator, as of Sunday, had not posted anything about the indictments.

(Update, Aug. 6: Forensicator, if Computer Weekly is right, is a front man for a British self-described black hat hacker and pro-Trumpist Tim Leonard. And, Duncan Campbell says that Bill Binney, at least, within VIPS, flipped his stance on the "impossible to download internationally claims" after taking a second look at the files, with Campbell. But Binney claims that Campbell misinterprets him. But, Binney himself misinterprets the VIPS statement. Per the "minority report" linked above, it's clear that not all of VIPS accepted that this had to be a hack, not a download.

(Update, April 8, 2021: Until reading Glenn Greenwald's "No Place to Hide," I didn't know Campbell's background. Well, Duncan Campbell, as the man who first exposed the GCHQ by name and the "Five Eyes," knows his shit. As a man earlier targeted for prosecution under Britain's Official Secrets Act, he has no love lost for the national security state or its smears. So, his pronouncements re the Seth Rich case, and his skill in getting the information, should be taken with the utmost seriousness.)

And, as for Disobedient Media lamenting a "smear" of Leonard/Carter? Good for the goose, good for the gander — Bill Binney apparently believes in microwave mind control weapons. And, the person whose show he is on thinks this is a plot to remove gun rights.)

Eleventh, per the above, it should most definitely not give any credence to any wingnuts, and any spinning by them needs to be challenged.

I'll stand on the take of James Risen, who is not a total friend of an alleged "deep state," over both the whataboutism above and the wingnuts below. And, re both groups, I'm going to quote:
It wasn’t Seth Rich, the murdered young Democratic staffer whose name has been dragged through the mud by countless fringe theorists, and whose parents are now suing Fox News for propagating such lies. 
It wasn’t an inside job by the Democrats themselves, as a group of out-of-touch former intelligence officials tried to convince themselves and the world.  The Mueller investigation isn’t a “witch hunt,” as Donald Trump and his loyalists have repeatedly claimed.

I especially like his take on VIPS. (The link is to the Aaron Mate piece at The Nation that I've blogged about.)

I'm not following Risen down the collusion road, though, and I'll note that, per Wen Ho Lee, he's not a total enemy of the intelligence establishment, either. The GRU folks had started the hacks long before the July 27, 2016 callout by Trump. And, per some people who are not whatabouters or wingnuts who still don't see collusion.

For example, as for claims by H.A. Goodman that "no DNC servers" and "no Russian hacks" have been found. It is true that, ever since its original denial to James Comey, the investigation has used mirrors and information from the servers from CrowdStrike, per the Hill. That said, CrowdStrike is probably not competent enough to successfully fudge DNC servers. And, yes, we still need the word "alleged," H.A., but the Russian hacks IS the indictments.

Update, Nov. 22, 2019, related to that and Crowdstrike:

Back to the original.

That said, Goodman, who probably never really was a Berniecrat in 2016, just an anti-Hillary Clinton wannabe, and who is now a gun nut as part of being a Trumper, has low credibility on this. (And, I called him out on Twitter about "never really a Berniecrat.")

Disobedient Media claiming Guccifer 2.0 never leaked anything damaging to Clinton is absurd if one assumes he/they was the main Wikileaker as well as setting up DCLeaks. The claim that it leaked info damaging to Trump is even more laughable.

More laughable yet is its making insinuations because certain things aren't detailed in the indictment when in reality that's how indictments work. It also, in the piece I'm reading but will not link, says what I see as deliberately confusing, and deliberately rhetorical, questions about timelines, like "Why didn't X say this in January 2017?" Because that was 18 months and much less research ago? Derp.

I've fired another shot across the Twitter bow indicating that left-liberal and leftist friends of mine who I follow there primarily for US political reasons should stop retweeting DM without good warrant.

Here's what MediaBias FactCheck says:
Disobedient Media is a news and opinion website with a right wing bias in story selection and reporting. Disobedient Media uses moderate loaded words and tends to source well to credible information. Occasionally they will source to some pretty far right sources. 
So, stop retweeting them just because they have blog posts that involve data dump shitstorm blizzards. They're not the worst; they reject QAnon type nuttery, for example. But they're not the best, either.

Twelfth, there ARE legitimate, non-wingnut critiques of some of the indictment. Already in late 2016, Jeffrey Carr cautioned about not reading too much into Yandex email accounts, other than that smart Russians wouldn't use them.

I also wrote myself about Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear in early 2017, based on Carr and other people. Maybe what Carr said then about the Yahoo hackers will be true about the GRU 12: They were independent Russian actors, even if working for the GRU. (That's a sort of plausible deniability that Beijing also uses — as does Washington, D.C.)

I want to specifically reference a Carr link inside there. He's right that we need a disinterested bipartisan look at such things. Disobedient Media and H.A. Goodman aren't disinterested. That said, I'd go beyond Carr to say, Hire people who we know are connected to the Green Party or Libertarian Party as part of that look.

And, he doesn't blog a lot, but I am waiting for what Carr might have to say on the indictments.

Jonathan Turley, whose legal insight is generally of high quality, is not drinking the Kool-Aid, either. And Glenn Greenwald has not one, but two parts, of transcripts of a debate with a think tank leader over what's good, bad and ugly in the Trump-Putin summit. (I largely agree with Glenn while saying he misses Trump's egotism in wanting a 1-on-1 with Putin, and that if he doesn't trust his conventional GOP foreign policy advisers, that's ultimately on Trump for bad hirings kowtowing to the GOP half of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment.)

It's "interesting" that a fair chunk of Fox News people not named Sean Hannity are taking the "conventional" line on the summit. More evidence there that Faux isn't quite as monolithic as many —occasionally me, too — like to believe.

Thirteenth, this is not the last I'll have to say here. I'll probably have brief updates in the next week or so if Forensicator, Clevenger or others, either others of note for connections to all this, or others of note for insight into all of this, weigh in.

Fourteenth? (Breaking update, July 9: A new Yahoo News bombshell says Russian intelligence, specifically its foreign intelligence agency, the SVR, was behind the Seth Rich conspiracy theories.)

July 13, 2018

Mike Trout is not actually chasing Babe Ruth

Starting with David Schoenfield, folks at ESPN baseball coverage, and now ESPN Stats and Info, have been claiming that Mike Trout is chasing Babe Ruth, namely Ruth's 1923 season, for the best year in baseball history by WAR.

He's not, unless he's trying for second place.

You see, I got curious, and went on Baseball-Reference myself.

The best year in MLB history is NOT Babe Ruth's 1923. Not at all.

But, who?

It's Walter Johnson's 1913.

The Big Train had 15.0 WAR on the mound, compared to Ruth's 14.3 at the plate.

Now, somebody will pop up that single-season WAR numbers can vary half a WAR point, so just maybe Ruth is ahead.


Johnson also had 1.4 at the plate for 16.4 WAR total.

Now, ESPN Stats and Info had one of their staff snootily tweet back to me when I tweeted this, that it was about position players only.

Well, Schoenfield never said that.

This dude said "it was implied."

I said "oh really"?

He then said that WAR favored pitchers, especially in the dead ball era.

First, as I've blogged before,1913 was semi-live ball, not totally dead. About all rules had been standardized, homers were up a tick, doubles up two or three ticks, etc.

Second, if you throw out pre-1920 years, as I then told this guy, half of the top WAR years were by batters anyway. (I took top 50 and threw out from there.) One third of post-1910 were, and almost all of the 1910-20 years that stay are Johnson's. Take top 50 and ties I then said "bye!"

Let's look at modern pitchers — post-1910, in my take — who are at least in the ballpark of the Babe's year.

Johnson, again, 14.8 in 1912
Dwight Gooden, 13.3 WAR (an under-21 record) in his phenomenal 1985
Pete Alexander, 12.7 in 1920
Walter (Guess Who) Johnson, 12.7 in 1914, part of a phenomenal three-year stretch.
Steve Carlton, 12.5 in 1972
You know Who, 12.5 in 1915, part of a phenomenal four-year stretch
Ed Walsh, 12.2, 1912
Roger Clemens, 12.1, 1997
Hal Newhouser, 12.1, 1945
Bob Gibson, 11.9, 1968
Old Pete, 11.9, 1916
Ferguson Jenkins, 11.9, 1971

So, ESPN Stats and Disinformation Guy? Not Even Wrong. That's 13 seasons by 9 pitchers. Even if we go to 1920 or later, we have seven seasons by seven pitchers. Post-integration?  Still have four seasons by four different pitchers.

Besides all of the above, it's fun busting ESPN's chops and doing so in a better-informed fashion than Deadspin.

July 12, 2018

David Corn and Jonathan Chait face-off
in the Putin Did It nutbar playoffs

I was wondering what Ken Silverstein was referring to on Twitter Monday when he posted some convoluted art with Donald Trump's and Vladimir Putin's mugs front and center and more flow chart lines than some old BASIC programming skit from the 1980s.

I found out Tuesday: It's Obama fellator Jonathan Chait, moving from crack-smoking to the glue-sniffing stage of lunacy in a long, long, long-form piece for NY Mag claiming that Trump has been a Soviet/Russian asset since 1987. No, really.

First, to address some of Chait's basic nuttery with mugshots on the US side of the graphic. Michael Flynn? A nothingburger, overall, as I noted here, who was ultimately, it appears, working for Turkish President Erdogan and Israeli Premier Netanyahu. Manafort? An all-purpose grifter most of whose most recent grifting was working for Ukrainians of various stripes, primarily pro-West, pro-NATO ones.

The meetings in Trump Tower, where Russians own apartments? Gee, Jon, where's Jill Stein sitting at the same table as Putin.

I ultimately refer to a recent piece by Jack Matlock, who happened to by our ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1987. Matlock scorns the Hillbot-lauded "17 intelligence agencies" report by DNI James Clapper on Jan. 6, 2017 as cherrypicked not just for its analysis, but which of the minority of those agencies were actually asked to participate.

Ambassador from 1987-1991, during the fall of Communism and the old Soviet Union, and a Foreign Service careerist, Matlock would surely have known if Donald Trump were being cultivated as a Soviet/Russian asset. It also ignores that it would have been hard for Vladimir Putin to be personally recruiting Trump during the Donald's 1987 trip to Moscow, as per Wiki, Vlad the Impaler was still stationed in Dresden, East Germany at that time.

In the blue corner, or the other blue corner, to riff on boxing, we have David Corn, who published a whole book of Putin Did It nuttery along with Michael Isikoff. Corn, aka Hillary's Lapdog, aka Steele's Bellboy.

Corn goes for the JFK route, implying that we have an American version of "While England Slept." He joins Chait in claiming the "mainstream media" has failed to denote enough coverage. Really? Who printed the "17 intelligence agencies" lock, stock and barrel? Who prints every move of special prosecutor Robert Mueller?

Here's Corn's capper:
Trump and Putin have jointly worked to disappear perhaps the greatest crime ever committed against American democracy and their respective complicity in this villainy.
Actually, no. 

I can think of many worse crimes.

  • The Supreme Court's misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment almost from the moment the ink was dry through Plessy v. Ferguson.
  • Dred Scott.
  • The foisting of a House of Lords-type Senate on the American populace.
  • The first Red Scare after World War I.
  • The second Red Scare after World War II.
Those are just starters. They took about 30 seconds to think up.

Beyond that, as a response to both Corn and Chait, Matlock has also decried Russiagate hysteria in general.

The two of them have surpassed even the nuttery of former Kossack Marcy Wheeler, aka Emptywheel.

Don't worry, this could escalate.

As I said on Twitter, next, Corn needs to try to top Chait's claim that Trump was a Russian asset since 1987 to claim that Kremlin scientists kidnapped Trump's mom while pregnant and altered his DNA.

They've even topped the latest from Alex Jones.

This all said, I think we need another bracket or two for a real playoff on this, like the World Cup or the NBA Finals. A person like Louise Mensch would of course be a ringer and be thrown out.

But, Sarah Kendzior? Rachel Maddow? Bring em on!

July 10, 2018

TX Progressives roundup while waiting for Trump's SCOTUS Godot

The Texas Progressive Alliance wonders when Trump will start conscripting people into his trade war and some of its members wait to see how much Democrats will raise their Oh the SCOTUS cries against Greens and others as it brings you this week's roundup. (And that Go Dough is Brett Cavanaugh.)

Dos Centavos urges Democrats to not lose their nerve in the #AbolishICE debate.

John Coby calls out Dan Patrick's bad math on metal detectors.

Off the Kuff made more comparisons to 2014 on relative levels of enthusiasm and candidate fundraising.

Grits for Breakfast deplores Texas politicos’ hysteria about opiates when meth is the more serious problem in this state.

The Observer reruns the column Molly Ivins wrote in 1973 after the Roe v Wade decision was handed down.

Stepping outside politics and into world sports culture, SocraticGadfly suggests ways to either improve on the current shootout method or reduce them in World Cup games.

Jeff Balke laments the things that Houstonians do during floods even though they should really know better.

Paradise in Hell continues to be our foremost interpreter of Donald Trump.

Stephen Young calls Ken Paxton the state’s luckiest politician. Young now adds that Paxton worries Tex-ass could become a sanctuary state for abortions.

Staying at least three steps ahead of former Observer partner Robert Wilonsky, Jim Schutze says the Margaret McDermott Bridge faces more inspection issues — and a worst-case nightmare.

Vanessa Eichler argues that inadequate funding remains the biggest problem in Texas public education.

Equality Texas is bringing town hall meetings on the ramifications of the Masterpiece CakeshopSupreme Court decision to Dallas, Waco, San Antonio, and Houston next week.

David Bruce Collins says the Kimo Jiménez situation got overblown with incorrect info but eventually handled reasonably well, with the state party noting  Jiménez was not an actual member. He encourages people to get involved, at least a small bit, with the Green Party.

Bonddad talks about the GOP turning out its base.

March for our Lives, the gun control movement lead by Parkland school shooting survivors, visited Houston.

Brains and Eggs noted the Fourth of July fireworks hypocrisy that MAGA-heads must follow.

July 09, 2018

Mice offer more partial refudiation of Elizabeth Loftus

Elizabeth Loftus, selectively focused memory psychologist.
That would be memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, who makes good money to peddle a seemingly Freudian-based version of "false memory syndrome," and not always correctly or scientifically.

Research on lab rats has already indicated that memory can be more malleable than Loftus presents.

The latest research? It's on mice, not rats. And, it shows that mice can be made to recover seemingly forgotten memories. This, too, is important. And deserves several paragraphs extracted:
Having encountered patients who couldn’t remember their early years, Sigmund Freud first coined the term infantile amnesia in the late 19th century. Since then, scientists have tried to understand why humans, nonhuman primates, and rodents alike experience this phenomenon. Whether these lost memories were due to improper storage or inefficient recollection was unknown. 
 In this latest study, Paul Frankland, a psychologist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and his colleagues sought to establish which of these possibilities was operating in mice. … 
 Frankland and his colleagues were able to switch on these memory-encoding neurons at 15, 30, and 90 days after the initial foot shock. At every stage up to young adulthood, the mice recalled their infant memories and froze when put back in the box. 
 Frankland’s team has previously shown that one reason why infantile memories are lost is because the adult brain adds new neurons to the hippocampus that replace the old memory-encoding neurons. However, this study shows that young adult mice tend to retain traces of their earliest memories.   
 “The findings of later accessibility of early memories are reminiscent (no pun intended) of those we see with human children,” writes Patricia Bauer, a psychologist at Emory University who was not involved in this research, in an email to The Scientist. Older children who are given cues can be prompted to remember events from their infancy. Unlike mice, episodic memories in humans are “not only hippocampally dependent, but also are personally relevant.” Still, she says, “we must be cautious about generalizing the present findings” to humans.
First, the third paragraph.

Such memories are retrievable. Period. And, relevant to Loftus and her paid expert witness testimony in courts, these were fear-based memories.

Second, the fourth paragraph. To the degree Loftus was working with scientific information 20 years ago, the idea that humans regularly grew new neurons, let alone in specialized brain areas such as the hippocampus, was not broadly accepted. We have that as a different model of brain development now.

Third, the last paragraph. It appears this applies to adults.

And, on counseling. The difference between cue-provision and coaching can be a fine one at times. The likes of Loftus would probably like to obliterate it to uphold their stances.

Also, kind of sadly, Texas civil liberties and criminal justice blogger Grits for Breakfast thinks Loftus is the bee's knees.

Update, March 1, 2020: And, although Loftus is referenced in this Nautilus piece? Overall, it would seem to partially refute her. Pre-5-year-old memories may be scrambled or hidden, and thus not totally reliable. But, they're not totally lost, and not totally unreliable, either. It too involves research in part from Paul Frankland.